Monday, February 10, 2020

197 - “A Stroll Up the Mountain” - Thissraelle - A Tale of Heroes

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Thissraelle had heard stories from her parents about snows this deep in the mountains, but by her memories of Twynne Rivers, anything higher than her ankles was a harsh winter. Now, here, on the path up the mountainside, she found herself slogging through snow banks that could have literally swallowed her up were it not for the webbed snowshoes the wood elves had given them. Though they kept her from sinking deep, they were big and awkward and they made her walk with a wide waddle. She had to heft her knees up high with each step just to keep moving forward.

Korr was marching in front of her, a huge pack on his back. He had been willing to carry the larger of the team’s packs. The smaller one, which was still quite large, was swapped back and forth between Parith and Eddiwarth. Karendle and Thissraelle had volunteered for a turn but Eddiwarth wouldn’t allow it. Thissraelle also noticed that Parith’s cloak had some rather large holes in it. She wondered how they had come to be, then laughed as she noticed the drake gnawing on the folds of his hood as it sat comfortably on Parith’s shoulder.

The sun was bright and almost blinding as it reflected off the white snow on the rocks around them. Every so often, Thissraelle would turn her eyes from the path ahead and look out over the forest stretched out below the slopes. Each time, the view was deeper and further below.

They had left TreeHaven three days before. Illariel had been eager to guide them to the foothills of the mountain. Three elven scouts of the garrison had been assigned to accompany them, presumably for their protection, though Parith had grumbled that they were there to make sure the party actually left the forest.

It had been hard for Thissraelle to part with Illariel. They had become good friends during their time in TreeHaven, and they had laughed together as they had dashed through the tree branches on the way through Umbrawood to the mountain path. It had been difficult for Thissraelle at first to gain her balance on the snowy branches, but she adapted, and soon was moving quickly along. Korr and Karendle had struggled to keep up. Finally, the forest ended in the lower hills of the mountainside, and Illariel had said goodbye with a hug.

The day’s struggle trudging along the winding path up the mountainside wore long. They came to a spot with a flat space under an overhang of rock. As the sun dimmed low over the horizon far off to the right, they set up their encampment. The muscles in Thissraelle’s legs and hips hurt in ways she had never thought possible. Karendle used her oculus to call up a large stone a few feet around, and Eddiwarth heated it with magical fires until it radiated warmth all around them. They each rolled out their thick and soft elven blankets, folded over once. They sat on the blankets facing the warming stone as the darkness fell, eating crusts and dried meats from their pack. A small bowl on the stone was melting snow and heating the water for them to make a dark brew.

“This is exhausting.” Parith took a bite of bread, as he looked at Thissraelle. “Let me ask: If you can open portals and flip through The Vast, from one place to the next, why are we walking? Why not just flash through a portal? We’d be at the shrine, bing!”

The look on other’s faces showed that they’d been wondering about this as well.

Thissraelle sighed, “The Vast is pretty unpredictable, and it’s not always stable. If you don’t have a clear vision of where you’re going or who you’re trying to catch up with, there’s no telling where you could end up. Some places, like the Seeker’s temple, have been made stable by the mages that live there. The portals there and back are well-established. That’s why we had to come back out of the Vast into Twynne Rivers, right by the old cathedral.”

She thought for a minute. “In the forest, when I blinked away from the fight, I was in a panic and completely unfocused. I was pretty lucky, really. I ended up hung up in a tree a few miles away. I might have easily ended up thousands of miles away, or even up in the air, falling out of a cloud. I could have gotten swept away in a Vast storm, or lost forever. Unless you know where you’re going, it’s very risky.

“Dimensional wizards with a lot of experience and deep pools of will can drive their way through and find the right moments of exit back into The Great Reality.” She dropped her gaze. “But I’m not that good at it yet.”

They ate more, trying to shiver off the awkwardness of the moment. Eddiwarth looked at the other’s tired and worn faces, coughed, and mused, “I’ve been thinking a bit about this Heathrax guy. I’m trying to figure out how old he would be. From the sounds of those legends, they were hundreds of years old.”

Parith nodded. “He’s probably dead.”

“Could be,” thought Eddiwarth. “Maybe we’ll find his descendents.”

“My master,” Korr said, “when he gave me the task, told me to find his friend and give him greetings. While it could be that this shrine is his memorial, and my instructions are to leave greetings there, the more sure implication is that Heathrax himself is still alive.”

Korr reached for the bowl, then wondered, “He could be elven. How long do elves live?”

Thissraelle settled back on her arms and uncrossed her legs, stretching them out before her. The motion both hurt and felt good. She leaned over to rest her head on Eddiwarth’s shoulder. “There are some family lines of high elven royalty that have lived that long, I’m told. Most of us don’t. What about the wood elves?”

“I don’t know.” Parith shrugged. “A hundred, maybe a hundred-fifty. More than most humans, but not by that much.”

Karendle added, “Maybe someone could have used magic to live longer. Or been turned into a tree or something.”

“There’s a point we’re all kind of missing, here.” Karendle blurted out, “Are we killing ourselves to climb a mountain named ‘Dragonspine’ to look for a guy named ‘Dragonfriend’ and not expecting to find dragons? I mean, DRAGONS, people. We fought drakes at the cathedral and that was bad enough. I’m not so sure I want to meet a full dragon. Maybe Heathrax is a dragon’s friend, but that doesn’t mean WE are.”

Their discussion was interrupted by a high-pitched hacking and coughing sound. Thissraelle looked to her left, away from the warming stone, and saw the small drake sitting in the snow. Its tummy shook and its snaking neck heaved in waves toward its wide open mouth. It lurched once, then again, and with a loud hack, hurked a thick blob out of its mouth that burst into flame the moment it hit the open air. It splattered out of its mouth onto the snow where it sizzled and melted until it steamed itself out. The drake hissed and spit a few more small smoking droplets, then shook its head from side to side and licked its nose with its smoldering tongue.

The party all looked on with surprise. The drake finally stopped coughing and looked back at them all, cocking his head to one side with a questioning gaze and trilling.

“Well.” Parith said, “He’s never done that before.”

“Let’s...ah...” Thissraelle added, eyes wide, “let’s keep him away from the blankets.”


This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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